The restaurant sector currently has a labour shortage. What realities do job seekers without a diploma have to consider to make their mark in this industry, namely a kitchen career?
At the end of 2018, the Institut de la statistique du Québec revealed that there were on average more than 116,000 vacancies across the province in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Among these are mainly preparation counter attendants, kitchen helpers and cooks.
Considering this crying need for labour, what do job seekers without a diploma have to do to make a career in the kitchen?
Learning by doing and observing
According to Alexander Porta, a cook without a diploma who has worked for more than 10 years in many restaurants and caterers, employers generally ask applicants if they have training, but still offer trial periods to those without recognized certification. “In my opinion, if there is a shortage of kitchen labour it is because it’s a difficult environment, and employers cannot necessarily afford big salaries,” he says. “It’s often the sous-chef, or the one with the most experience, who teaches the craft to newcomers.”
Once hired, kitchen employees without a diploma who are offered a trial period have to quickly learn basic cooking techniques. “By repeating preparation tasks you learn quite quickly,” says Alexander Porta. “You pick up a lot of knowledge by observing others working. With the internet, cooks can also find several videos to master techniques. I did my apprenticeship on my own, with books on cooking.”
Climbing the ladder, one recipe at a time
Kitchen workers who get a job without having a diploma usually begin at the bottom of the ladder, and have little chance of starting their career in a star-studded establishment. But with a broad knowledge of products, a good dose of curiosity and creativity, lots of practice and an understanding of the field, rising up the ranks is not impossible.
Alexander Porta believes that cooks coming from cooking schools do not necessarily have an advantage over them on all points. “Most graduate cooks have a more precise and structured way of working, but they can often fall short on performance and speed, qualities that really come with practical experience and resourcefulness.”